Fifty years of “wheely prickly cactus” (Opuntia robusta) in the Maldon Shire

An article in the Maldon Times dated May 1963, tells us that the Vermin and Noxious Weeds Destruction Board instructed Maldon Shire inspectors to immediately carry out control measures against wheel cactus (Opuntia robusta J.C.Wendl. ex Pfeiff.).

Thirty years later in the 1990’s, local farmers were alarmed to find wheel cactus still spreading on their properties. These concerns lead to optimistic collaborations between neighbouring landholders, local Landcare groups and Parks Victoria. In the early 2000’s these community members formed a new group, the Tarrangower Cactus Control Committee, specifically to tackle the increasing problem of wheel cactus around Maldon in central Victoria.

This group gained initial funding from the Victorian State Government which helped to establish years of knowledge building, education and information sharing with local communities. Despite the past 20 years of focused, determined and untiring work by many volunteers, there are now more infestations, larger seed banks and a greater spread of wheel cactus in our district.

Fifty years on, it is heartbreaking to see wheel cactus still growing in our beautiful parklands, and devastating to see land owners overwhelmed with the infestations on their properties. Without more rigorous control measures wheel cactus may soon become a major environmental and economic disaster in our region.

This paper presents an overview of the eradication methods and the work performed by our group of ‘cactus warriors’ over the past 20 years, and outlines the actions that we believe need to be taken in the future ‘war’ against wheel cactus.


Cite as:

Mead, L. (2016). Fifty years of 'wheel prickly cactus' (Opuntia robusta) in the Maldon Shire. Plant Protection Quarterly, 30(1), 2-5.


 

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The invasive threat of besom heath (Erica scoparia) (in Tasmania) to Victoria

Erica species are not found naturally in Australia, but have been distributed here widely as ornamental plants. Approximately 18 Erica species are recorded to have naturalised in Australia. One of these, besom heath (Erica scoparia L.), is only known from northern Tasmania where it was first formally recorded as naturalised in 1983. It is now threatening to become a state-wide weed.

Weed risk assessment (and experience) suggest that besom heath has invasive potential at least equal to its better known weedy relatives Spanish heath (Erica lusitanica Rudolphi) and tree heath (Erica arborea L.). The northern Tasmanian besom heath infestation now covers approximately 250 ha with approximately 20 outlier infestations (of less than 20 ha each).

Containment measures are in place for besom heath in Tasmania. However, ongoing spread is inevitable. Besom heath is a prolific producer of fine seed that spreads on vehicles and equipment, in soil and with other materials. With movement of people, vehicles and freight between Tasmania and Victoria on a daily basis, besom heath should be on mainland jurisdiction’s biosecurity ‘radars’ (particularly Victoria’s). Should it appear, rapid early efforts should be made to eradicate it.


Cite as:

Noble, M. and Smith, A. (2016). The invasive threat of besom heath (Erica scoparia) (in Tasmania) to Victoria. Plant Protection Quarterly 31(2), 55-58.


 

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Use of pine oil and sugar to reduce weed seed banks under cane needle grass (Nassella hyaline) patches

ane needle grass (Nassella hyalina (Nees) Barkworth) is perennial, exotic, unpalatable weedy grass from South America threatening critically endangered grasslands within Victorian Basalt Plains in Victoria. Recent advances in weed management now place greater emphasis on eradication of small manageable ‘locally eradicable’ weed populations before their incursions are beyond eradication. A key component of weed eradication is destroying or controlling the weed seed bank.


Cite as:

McLaren, D.A., Hunt, T.D. and Butler, K.L. (2016). Use of pine oil and sugar to reduce weed seed banks under cane needle grass (Nassella hyalina) patches. Plant Protection Quarterly 31(2), 46-54.


 

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Volunteers as dispersal agents for biocontrol of English broom in the Victorian eastern alps

English (or Scotch) broom (Cytisus scoparius (L.) Link) is a perennial, leguminous shrub of the Fabaceae (pea) family. In native vegetation, it can form dense thickets which exclude native species. Dense infestations are highly difficult to control, and the required interventions to manage these infestations are likely to cause severe off-target impacts and require extensive follow up works. As such, management of these infestations can be cost-prohibitive.

English broom has invaded approximately 150 000 ha of Victoria and is yet to reach maximum habitat potential. Within the Alpine National Park (ANP), the majority of the English Broom infestation is within the Mitta Mitta catchment in the Lakes and East Alps Park Area downstream of Glen Wills. Its distribution extends along the Mitta Mitta River from the Big River Bridge to the upper reaches of Lake Dartmouth.

Biological control can potentially reduce the vigour and spread of target species with minimal labour inputs. Two English broom biocontrol agents with demonstrated capacity to weaken the health and/or reproductive capacity of broom plants have been successfully introduced in the eastern alps: the seed-feeding beetle (Bruchidius villosus Fabricius); and the broom gall mite (Aceria genistae Nalepa).

Parks Victoria has implemented two forms of community participation to assist in the dispersal of broom biocontrol agents: (1) holding a workshop in collaboration with other agencies to educated and train community groups in the dispersal of these agents to public or private land; and (2) engaging volunteers to assist in the targeted redistribution of agents within the Alpine National Park.

Although the success of redistribution works has not yet been determined, over successive years release sites will be revisited to determine the presence or absence of agents.


Cite as:

Primrose, K.A. and Brida, N. (2016). Volunteers as dispersal agents for biocontrol of English broom in the Victorian eastern alps. Plant Protection Quarterly. 31(2), 67-69.


 

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Plastic weed matting is better than jute or woodchips for controlling the invasive wetland grass species Phalaris arundinacea, but not Phragmites australis

Woven polypropylene (plastic) weed matting, jute and eucalypt woodchips were trialled for controlling reed canary grass (Phalaris arundinacea L.) and common reed (Phragmites australis (Cav.) Trin. ex Steud.). At two sites, one dominated by reed canary grass and the other by common reed, 50 m x 20 m was mowed and sprayed and ten (10 m x 10 m) plots established, eight of which were fenced. Plots were covered with either plastic weed matting, jute or eucalypt woodchips, or were controls. All plots were planted with native trees and shrubs and understorey plants. Plastic weed matting was the most effective at reducing regrowth of reed canary grass (<5% cover after one year) and promoting the growth of native plantings (>60% cover). Both plastic weed and jute matting were similarly effective at reducing its regrowth (to ~10%), but both matting types were compromised by common reed regrowth. While trees and shrubs grew well across all fenced treatments (~100% survival), understorey plants only established and grew where weed regrowth was controlled. Unfenced unguarded trees and shrubs were virtually eliminated by browsing. Plastic weed matting (combined with other control measures, and protection from browsers where necessary) may provide the best opportunity to control reed canary grass and facilitate wetland restoration.


Cite as:

Greet, J., King, E. and Stewart-Howie, M. (2016). Plastic weed matting is better than jute or woodchips for controlling the invasive wetland grass species Phalaris arundinacea, but not Phragmites australis. Plant Protection Quarterly 31(1), 19-22.


 

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Hawkweed (Hieracium spp.) surveillance: development of a targeted and robust plan for the Victorian Alps

Hawkweeds (Hieracium spp.) are an eradication target in Victoria due to the detrimental impact they can have on the natural environment and agriculture. Surveillance planning is a necessary component of an eradication program, and here it is made difficult by the species’ potential distribution over large and remote areas of the Victorian Alps. This paper describes recent surveillance planning for hawkweed, using a model to prioritise the highest risk areas for surveillance given the search hours available. The model uses variables relating to hawkweed seed dispersal and habitat suitability, as well as detectability and delimitation data to prioritise surveillance in areas at the highest risk of harbouring hawkweeds. The result is a rigorous and transparent three-year surveillance plan which can be updated and adjusted as the hawkweed program progresses.


Cite as:

Constantine, A., Hauser, C.E., Primrose, K. and Smith, N. (2016) Hawkweed (Hieracium spp.) surveillance: development of a targeted and robust plan for the Victorian Alps. Plant Protection Quarterly 31(1), 28-32.


 

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Weeds at the Early Stage of Invasion (WESI) project: Managing invasive plants at the early stage of invasion on public land in Victoria

The Weeds at the Early Stage of Invasion (WESI) project focuses on high risk early invaders that threaten biodiversity. We work with Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) and Parks Victoria staff looking after public land at any scale anywhere in Victoria.

By investigating the barriers that prevent action on early invaders, WESI has created a process and tools to assist public land managers.

The WESI project’s framework leads users through a decision making process; this is supported by a set of detailed guides.


Cite as:

Blood, K. and James, B. (2016) Weeds at the Early Stage of Invasion (WESI) project: Managing invasive plants at the early stage of invasion on public land in Victoria. Plant Protection Quarterly 30(1), 6-7.


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Mapping the present to manage the future

Mapping is a cost effective method to identify which weed species are present, and their location. Additionally, by mapping on a number of occasions, an indication of management effectiveness can be determined. By presenting this information graphically an overview of the weed dynamics over time can also be obtained. Futher, persistent weeds and locations can be identified. By identifying persistent weeds, their modes of dispersal can inform a weed control program.

Using 5 ha quadrats (n=449) weed presence was mapped in 2002, 2009 and 2013 in the Dandenong Ranges National Park. The percentage of quadrats with weeds, both all weeds and the 20 nominated priority weeds, had significantly decreased in 2013 in comparison to 2002 in each management area; for example in Doongalla, all weeds decreased from 95.5% to 80.2% and priority weeds from 94.6% to 78.4% (P<0.001 for both). A significant decrease (P<0.001) in the mean number of species per quadrat in 2013 compared to 2002 was also demonstrated in all areas except Olinda.

In 2013, seven weed species (Blackberry, English holly, English ivy, Karamu, Sweet pittosporum, Sycamore maple and Tutsan) were considered persistent weeds in at least one management area.

Overall, these results demonstrate the effectiveness of the weed management program between 2002 and 2013.


Cite as:

Keatley, M.R., Yuen, K., McIntosh, T.A. and Incoll, B. (2016). Mapping the present to manage the future. Plant Protection Quarterly 31(1), 8-14.


 

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Tackling camel thorn (Alhagi maurorum Medik.) in Victoria, Australia

Camelthorn (Alhagi maurorum Medik.) is a State prohibited weed in Victoria. State Prohibited Weeds either do not occur in Victoria, or there is an expectation they can be eradicated from the state. The Victorian Government aims to eradicate all new incursions of State prohibited weeds as soon as they are detected. This paper describes the occurrence of camelthorn in Australia, its identification, reproduction and dispersal, ecology, impacts and its allellopathic nature. It also describes an eradication and management program initiated by the Victorian Government.


Cite as: Munakamwe, Z. (2016). Tackling camelthorn (Alhagi maurorum Medik.) in Victoria, Australia. Plant Protection Quarterly 31(2), 44-45.


 

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A pot trial to assess the effects of pine oil, sugar and granulated flupropanate on cane needle grass (Nassella hyaline) seed banks

The evolution of weed control practices now places an extremely high emphasis on eradication of new weed incursions before their populations are beyond expiration. A key component of weed eradication is destroying or controlling the weed seed bank. Essential oils have been shown to exhibit herbicidal activity and have been previously used for weed seed bank control. Carbon (sugar) has been shown to increase microbial activity and has also been linked to reducing seed bank germination. This trial examined applications of an essential oil (pine oil) at a range of rates (0, 1%, 2.5%, 5%, 10% and 20%) with and without carbon (sugar at 0.31 kg C ha-1) and compared this to a herbicide treatment applied as a pre-emergent herbicide (1, 2 and 3 L ha-1 of flupropanate, active ingredient) on the germination of cane needle grass seeds. The results show a strong dose response for decreased seed germinations with increased pine oil concentration with only 1 seed germinating at 20% pine oil concentration. No direct response was observed for carbon addition but it did result in a response through time with reduced seed germination with carbon at high pine oil rates. Flupropanate granules applied as a pre-emergent herbicide did not produce the expected dose response effect or high levels of cane needle grass control. This may have been due to the active ingredient being leached out by high watering rates before the cane needle grass had germinated.


Cite as:

McLaren, D.A. and Butler, K.L. (2016). A pot trial to assess the effects of pine oil, sugar and granulated flupropanate on cane needle grass (Nassella hyalina) seed banks. Plant Protection Quarterly 31(2), 38-43.


 

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